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Gloucestershire Business News

Job ad falls foul in pursuit of happiness

The owner of a hair salon has been left far from happy after being told she could not run a job advert for a new stylist - because the word happy is discriminatory.

Alison Birch, who runs AJ's Unisex hair salon in Stroud, was amazed when a JobCentre official told her she could not stipulate happiness as a required quality for a new stylist.

The advert for a part-time hairdresser ended: "This is a busy, friendly small salon, so only happy, friendly stylist need apply."

Mother of three Alison, 54, who has run her salon for 20 years, said: "It was less than an hour after I'd gone online and placed the ad with the local job centre that I got a call saying there was a problem."

He said I couldn't use the word happy because it discriminated against people who aren't happy.

"I honestly thought it was a wind up and someone I know was pulling my leg. I thought any second now he's going to tell me it's a joke but he didn't. He was deadly serious."

She continued: "All I wanted to get across in my ad was that we are a small friendly salon and we wanted someone with a smile on their face.

"We have had stylists in the past who come in after arguing with their boyfriends and slam the door and things like that and I didn't want that sort of thing again." 

She said she and fellow stylist Claire Young were looking for someone cheerful after the death of a colleague to cancer during lockdown, aged 42.  

"In this day and age with COVID worrying us all, our customers really need to see happy smiling eyes," she said.

"Our eyes are all they can see while we have to wear masks and visors so I don't think there is anything terribly wrong in advertising for someone of a happy disposition."

She continued: "I still can't understand why the word happy should be such a problem. I could have said outgoing or friendly but that would presumably be discriminating against people who aren't outgoing or friendly?

"Who would want someone miserable cutting their hair? It's great to see our customers leaving with a spring in their step after having an uplifting experience here with happy staff - that's what it's all about."

Alison's husband Martin, a financial adviser, said they had received several applications for the post.

He said: "I like to think that all hair salons are happy places and that there is nothing wrong with saying we want people working for us who are happy.

"My wife was just trying to say this is a happy salon and it is somewhere to come and smile.

"She was quite adamant she didn't want to change it so she's decided not to place it for the time being."

UPDATE: The Department of Work and Pensions has said the job centre was wrong to refuse the advert. 

A DWP spokesperson said: "We mistakenly advised a customer to amend a job advert but have since offered to repost the original copy and apologised for the error."

Read more: Salon owner receives apology over happy ad refusal 

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